BAINBRIDGE, Ga. — As expected, the Florida strain bass tossed some curveballs on Day 2 of the Dick Cepek Tires Bassmaster Elite at Lake Seminole presented by Hardee's. A cold front usually does that here.
And unlike pre-tournament expectations, this hasn't turned into a sight-fishing tournament.
"It should be won sight-fishing," said Mark Davis, who is seventh with 41-13.
"I'll tell you that, and in the next breath I'll say I'm not going to be sight-fishing (Saturday)."
After catching 21-0 while fishing spawning beds Thursday, Davis came back with 20-13 Friday while doing everything but sight-fishing. Most of the other anglers in the top 10 aren't sight-fishing. There are a bunch of big bass – both pre- and post-spawners – hanging around the deeper grass lines. That seems to be where most of the action is.
"I'm targeting pre-spawn fish," said Brett Hite, who is leading this event with 45-6.
"So many of these fish are replenishing. The water temperature isn't that big of a key. It hasn't reached the point where fish are really going to the bank."
Most anglers saw the water temperature rise from 58 degrees to 62 degrees during the day Friday.
"I've always said the second day after a cold front is the toughest, and that was today," said Hite.
He wasn't the only angler thinking that Saturday may be a better day than the previous two on Lake Seminole.
Kevin Short is third with 43-3. But his fish weren't caught nearly as quickly as they were Thursday. He finally found that school of bass again late in the day. He caught a 6-3 and a 5-pounder 30 minutes before check-in time.
"I caught them in a real short stretch," he said. "I'm hoping this is where the fish I caught Thursday moved to. If it is, it's going to be hell to pay (Saturday)."
But with the field cut from 108 anglers to the top 50 for Saturday, it could open up some strong sight-fishing areas again. So here are the top five things to watch on Saturday:
1. Sight fishing vs. just fishing
Some anglers did both yesterday, but most of the top 10 were fishing offshore, catching bass that were moving shallow to spawn.
"I'm not looking at them," said Chad Morgenthaler, who is fifth with 43-0. "I'm intercepting them before they move into spawning areas. These fish are still running in schools, moving into ponds to spawn. I've really been fortunate to catch fish that are moving up."
But fish are in all modes now – pre-spawn, spawning and post-spawn. So it's hard to make a choice for some anglers. It got up to 73 degrees Friday and is predicted to be 75 on Saturday. When you can catch a 10-10 while sight-fishing, like Bernie Schultz did Thursday, that can make all the difference in making the Top 12 cut to Sunday.
Nobody was hurt more by the 1 hour, 20 minute fog-delayed start today than Shaw Grigsby, who weighed-in 30-5 on Thursday. Surprisingly for one of the best sight fishermen on tour, Grigsby caught those fish early on Thursday while concentrating on an offshore weed-line.
Grigsby had two fish hit his first cast in that area when he finally got to it Friday, but then it shut down. He had to go sight fishing to fill a late limit weighing 12-5 that left him in sixth place.
Some of the most consistent anglers over the previous two days were all fishing offshore most of the day, like Hite, Short, Justin Lucas (4th with 43-1) and Morgenthaler. And Grigsby might have been another, if he'd gotten to his hot spot earlier.
3. Pace of the spawn
The bass fishing could bust loose on Saturday. Many anglers think it will be at least the best of the three days at Lake Seminole. It doesn't hurt that a full moon is rising, officially full on Sunday. Kevin Short isn't the only angler who is anxious to get back on the lake.
"I think it's going to be really good (Saturday)," said Justin Lucas.
Lucas believes he's fishing an area that has both pre- and post-spawn fish. And no one believes the bass in Lake Seminole have made a major push shallow yet. So as long as fish keep moving, whether to bank or away from it, Lucas has reason to be fired up.
"They're using this one little spot as a highway," Lucas said.
4. Fish management
No matter whether you're fishing offshore or sight fishing, managing those fish and leaving some for the next two days will be crucial. Bernie Schultz said he didn't go back to one particular spawning flat Friday because he was worried about that.
Most importantly, Hite caught his fish early and had several hours to look for other areas.
"About 1 o'clock I started running some new water," he said. "In a four-day event, fish management is a key."
5. Who is going to gamble
Bernie Schultz believes there are some spawning areas on Lake Seminole that have remained untouched through the first three days because it's such a big lake. But he's not ready to go searching for them yet. Someone else might be.
"It's a time management deal," Schultz said. "I can't abandon all the fish I've found in practice. Sunday, I might be. But I'm not ready to gamble yet."